Sitting in the middle of the Canadian Prairies is a not so small city known for a globally thriving folk music festival scene, the world’s best farmers market and your gateway to Banff National park all included in this comprehensive guide to the most amazing things to do in Edmonton.
Why is this the BEST guide to exploring Edmonton, Alberta?
Well just like Melbourne is my home town, Edmonton is where my better Canadian half Laura was born and raised. So we challenge anybody to know more about the best attractions in Edmonton than Laura does. But first, a lesson on Edmonton’s early history
Originally the city was known and established as Fort Edmonton in 1821 and the earliest known inhabitants arrived as early as 12000 BC during the last glacial period.
The Indigenous population prolific at the time, the Metis and Inuit people are the traditional custodians of the land and as of 2021 represent 6.4% of the total Edmonton population.
The land on which Edmonton is known by is located on Treaty 6 territory and a traditional meeting ground for many Indigenous populations.
Folks from Edmonton are colloquially known as Edmontonians, representing Alberta’s capital city and the second largest population behind Calgary.
Geographically speaking, Edmonton sits on both sides of the North Saskatchewan river and lies within the middle of the Canadian Prairies, a 2000km plain of flat grass and farm land.
Wondering what to do when you visit Edmonton alberta?
Visitors flock to the state’s capital for world-class music festivals like Folk Fest or Edmonton international fringe festival.
Take a stroll down ‘Whyte Ave’ – the go-to hub for a lot of Edmonton’s attractions such as eclectic collection of live music, cafes and bars as well retail therapy and an impressive collection of museums and art galleries, like the Art gallery of Alberta.
Much of what surrounds Edmonton are historic buildings that have been preserved or updated to suit the aesthetic of the town and preserve is heritage.
If none of these tickle your fancy you could always visit the North america’s largest mall in West Edmonton mall or escape the city and head to Alberta’s incredible national parks down in Banff and Jasper.
A little further to the west is the famous province of British Columbia or BC for short – housing names like Whistler, Vancouver and the island to the western coast of Vancouver.
Before you leave you cannot miss our kick-ass article on the best things to do when in Banff
How to get to Edmonton
We’ve sorted out your different transport options depending on where you’re coming in from below.
Edmonton to Calgary – 2 hours and 55 minutes
The Queen Elizabeth highway basically travels north to south with 300km exactly between the two cities with Red Deer being your best half way point option.
Edmonton to Banff national park – 4 hours including driving via Calgary as there is no other option, across 415 km.
Edmonton to Jasper national park – 3 hours and 46 minutes across 365 km via the Yellowhead highway that travels due east of Edmonton.
Our readers get access to a shuttle transfer service between Jasper and Edmonton downtown
Edmonton Airport to Edmonton City – YEG is the international airport code for Edmonton and is a 27 minute drive between each other
Vancouver to Edmonton – We’ve road tripped Edmonton to Vancouver before stopping in Nelson and Kelowna and it’s a lot of driving and you have two options.
Via Banff will take you 13 hours and 26 minutes
Via Jasper will take you 12 hours and 24 minutes
We personally took the longer route via Banff stopping in all the places listed above which made a super interesting road trip!
Getting to Edmonton by Plane
Most guests flying internationally will arrive at Edmonton International Airport (YEG), one of Canada’s largest airports and the central hub for exploring the North-West territories, Yukon & Nunavut.
Getting to Edmonton By Train
It won’t cost you an arm and a leg but Edmonton is home to the VIA rail, an intercity passenger railway service through Canada that’s able to get you closer to the best of the Edmonton attractions.
Alternatively Red Arrow is the bus transportation service that also runs intercity including between Calgary and Edmonton.
Getting around Edmonton
There’s a number of ways to catch public and private transport around town –
Taxis – Edmonton has a few taxi services to help you get around town easily, like the Greater Edmonton yellow cab service. Just download the link here from the app store or the google play store or call straight from your phone
Uber – For more geographic coverage around Edmonton hit up the guys at Uber who will also service the Leduc, Fort Saskatchewan and Spruce Grove area.
Transit – The LRT in Edmonton is by far the cheapest alternative to getting around Edmonton, at only $9.75 a ticket. The LRT map can be found on their website and an interactive map to help you plan your trip easier.
If this is your first time in Edmonton and you’re a bit stressed about seeing the best things in the city then we strongly recommend purchasing the Edmonton River Valley segway tour as it will give you the best feel for the city from an Edmontonians perspective at a fantastic price!
22 Amazing Things to do in Edmonton
Once you’ve finished exploring Edmonton you will NOT want to miss a trip to the most beautiful place in Canada- the lakes in the canadian rockies
Only 3 hours north of Calgary, tourists flock to towns in the Canadian Rockies like Canmore to get full access to the incredible mountain trails and lakes of Banff and Jasper either before or after their time in Edmonton Alberta.
Being in the Northern hemisphere Edmonton is also a hot spot for northern lights activity during the winter time and a great spot to see the Aurora Borealis from.
Walk or Segway North America’s largest park
Have you heard of Central Park in NYC? Well the Edmonton river valley is 22 times larger than Central Park, making it the largest urban park land in North America.
Head into downtown and walk along the North Saskatchewan river that cuts straight through the guts of Edmonton from northeast to southwest.
If you’re unsure of what to do in Edmonton you should most definitely try a segway tour along the Edmonton river valley, a lot quicker than walking and a super fun experience allowing you to see more of the park in a quicker time.
Located outside of downtown on Grierson Hill North West in Louise McKinney Riverfront park is the best place to go Segwaying, and while you’re here you can check out the Chinese garden and Accidental beach on the southern side of the river.
The seasons bring alive other Edmonton tourist attractions along the river valley like snow-shoeing, canoeing, cross country skiing or a fat bike-ing.
Snowshoeing in Edmonton was probably our most fun experience along Edmonton’s River Valley, with the caveat that this activity only applies in Winter (duh)
High level bridge street car
One of the most cheapest activities in Edmonton is to take a ride on the historic High Level Bridge streetcar that runs just north of the Old Strathcona farmers market, crossing the North Saskatchewan river through to the Jasper Plaza terminal.
It is the world’s highest street car river crossing with over 100 years of service in Edmonton and can be a fantastic activity in Edmonton for the day for as little as $7 for a round trip
Stroll down Whyte Avenue
To experience the very best in Edmonton’s culture and shopping precinct then you’re going to want to visit Whyte Avenue, 82nd Avenue as it’s otherwise known.
Laura and I went here with some of her family and close friends for breakfast one morning and the food is incredible! A completely vegetarian and vegan food and drinks menu that makes your mouth water.
In the heart of the theatre and festival district, the aptly named ‘The Next Act’ serves up delicious burgers in a casual atmosphere with a range of locally sourced craft beer, a top attraction in Edmonton.
We highly recommend visiting Strathcona spirits distillery, a tiny pink rendered building that owns the title of being the smallest distillery in North America.
Not surprisingly they are also Edmonton’s oldest distillery, established in 2016. Try their limited release Oloroso dreamland whisky or their Barrel Aged Gin.
If you have time one of the most fun edmonton activities is take a 45 minute tour and taste session at Strathcona and see how the locals brew it.
Coming from the international airport? Book your private vehicle transfer into downtown Edmonton and make the trip hassle-free
Neon sign museum
For a free activity in Edmonton’s look no further than the east wall of the Telus science building and the south wall of the Mercer building to see a small, vintage collection of 20 neon signs tell a story of Edmonton’s neon past thats on display 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
No admission is required.
Edmonton convention centre
One of the top 5 leading convention and trade centres in the North America, the edmonton convention centre is a sustainably purpose built trade and convention centre that hosts business events, world class chef led restaurants, media conventions as well as arts and culture performances.
Located in edmonton city centre along the River valley, this architecturally stunning building runs events all year and it’s worth checking out their calendar to see if there’s something exciting on when you visit Edmonton.
Alberta Aviation Museum
For the history buffs and avitaton fenatics the Alberta Aviation Museum in North West Edmonton showcases over 40 aircrafts of which some have been restored from their WW11 days.
Located near Edmonton city centre airport, the alberta aviation museum is a must-see edmonton attraction incorporating an exciting legacy of aircrafts that have formed much of Alberta’s aviation history since the early 1900’s.
Location: 11410 Kingsway Avenue, NW Edmonton Alberta
You can visit the Alberta aviation museum at the website below
Explore the old Farmers markets of Edmonton
The Strathcona Farmers Market is a world renowned indoor farmers market two blocks north of Whyte Avenue and one of the more historic buildings around.
Operating since 1983, one of the best things to do in Edmonton is to venture on a saturday morning between 8am and 3pm and support Edmonton’s hand-picked independent local producers and retailers from across the city.
Over 120 vendors come here every weekend to show off the vibrance of local sourced food, coffee, sweets, fruit and veg and a variety of healthy living organisms
Downtown Edmonton farmers market is another locally famous market established in 1903 as the rice street market, now the site of the Stanley A Milner library.
Because Edmonton’s climate can freeze the fingers off your hands if you’re not careful, during the winter months the market is moved inside.
With over 28 different categories of Vendors and more than 100 individual vendors, their new location is at 10305 97th street, open Saturdays 9-3pm and Sundays 11-3pm with free parking on site.
Make your way to the Strathcona markets easily by booking your private vehicle transfer from the airport straight to the markets and take the worry out of public transport.
Journey to the Telus World of Science
A top attraction in Edmonton and one of our favourites is the science telus world located in north west Edmonton providing people of all ages with an interactive and educational science exhibition centre promoting the best in science and technology.
Interactive displays such as the James Cameron Deep Sea adventure in IMAX, the telus world of science center focuses on displays that discuss science, forensics, space, robots and the environment.
Astrology lovers will enjoy the observatory which offers a wide range of star-gazing opportunities offered in the Telus world of science; one of the best free things to do in Edmonton.
Location: 11211 142 Street NW Edmonton
The festival state
It’s been a while since Laura’s been back but her favourite festivals are some of the most unique places to visit in Edmonton and a crowd favourite.
Edmonton has secured it’s spot amongst all other Canadian cities as holding the claim as Canada’s top festival cities.
The Edmonton Folk Festival has grown into one of the largest and most popular folk festivals in the entire world. A star studded line up of other festivals like the Fringe theatre festival and the Interstellar rodeo pop up throughout the summer season in Edmonton.
Beginning in 1980 with star studded line ups every year the organisers ensure that prices stay low and they minimise their carbon footprint as much as possible.
For one of the most fun things to do in Edmonton make sure you’re at Gallagher Park for the festival.
If you need a place while in Edmonton but want to stay close to the festival then we personally recommend checking out these budget friendly hotels within a short distance of the festival!
If you just can’t get enough of the theatrical feel then your next move should be to attend the Edmonton international Fringe Festival in Old Strathcona.
The fringe festival is all about opening up creatively and trying new things, experiencing new artists and letting go in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. This year they have reimagined the festival and how they run the show (thanks covid) but it’s still one of the best activities in Edmonton to get involved in in 2021.
Fort Edmonton Park
For the history buffs out there your list of the best things to do in Edmonton starts here in Fort Edmonton Park.
Fort Edmonton Park is bound in the acknowledgement of the traditional custodians of the land and the first nations people by taking visitors on a 4 era history of Edmonton past to present through interactive and immersive experiences.
Learn about the rich history of the Metis people, the first nations people of Edmonton, go back in time to the 1840’s of horse drawn carriages to the train and street car era.
If you’ve never been to Edmonton and need some help figuring out what to do in Edmonton, we recommend buying the Fort Edmonton Park admission ticket, as it will give you access to the entire park for the whole day!
Passing by Fort Edmonton park is included in your 90 minute segway tour
Your gateway to Lake Louise
When you’re done exploring downtown Edmonton and you’re ready to explore the Rocky Mountains then we highly suggest making your way to the insanely beautiful Banff national park where you will be able to explore hidden beauties like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Peyto Lake.
I (chris) could seriously consider moving to this part of the world for how stunning it is, even the drive down via the world famous Icefields parkway is a stunning drive!
For the best natural phenomenons in the rockies, the northern lights shine their brightest from December to January and can be seen above the mountains of Banff across vast lakes during the night.
A fantastic tourist attraction in Edmonton is also a state of the art premium horticultural attraction known as the Muttart Conservatory.
Three architecturally stunning glass pyramids just south of accidental beach represent 2 different atmospheric climates within.
Arid, temperate and tropical climates represent over 700 species of plants in these three biomes drawing crowds to the Edmonton River Valley year round and after a much needed facelift, the Conservatory is back up and running as of 2021.
While you’re here head west along the River Valley and check out the Edmonton Legislature building, known to the locals as ‘The ledge’.
Seeing Muttart Conservatory is part of your 90 minute segway tour of Edmonton!
Alberta Legislature building – The Ledge
On the banks of the edmonton river valley near the high level bridge is the 1913 Alberta Legislature building known as ‘the ledge’ by the locals.
An imposing and architecturally stunning building, the best way to explore the ledge is by taking a guided tour of the assembly exploring the political history of Edmonton or going for a walk around the surrounding parks and gardens of Edmonton’s River Valley.
Just north of the ledge is the legislative Assembly Visitor centre where you’ll find important displays of art, culture and historic buildings as well as a 4D immersive experience that provides visitors with an impressive visual history of the first nations people and the history of the province of Alberta.
Your Edmonton River Valley segway tour passes not far from the Legislature building and can easily be seen from the North Saskatchewan River.
Alberta Railway Museum
Established in 1976 with the aim of preserving the province’s rich railway heritage of locomotives and railway engines, the Alberta railway Museum features a selection of still operating and static locomotives, steam and railway engines.
If you want to take a trip down memory lane you have the opportunity to ride these prehistoric trains during the summer months, of which you can pre-purchase tickets for the ride here.
Located an hour’s drive south of Edmonton in the little town of Wetaskiwin is the Reynolds Alberta Museum, an award winning museum dedicated to the celebration of the machine. The museum sports an impressive collection of both aircraft, motor vehicles and agricultural and industrial equipment.
Over 100 aircrafts call this museum home as well as the Canadian aviation hall of fame best seen in the summer months when the displays are out and interactie.
Location: 6426 40 Avenue, Wetaskawin Alberta
Both a cafe, stores and restaurant are located on-site
The U of A (University of Alberta)
The Alberta botanic garden of the University of Alberta is a fantastic edmonton attraction founded in 1959 dedicated to a flower and garden display, including a japanese garden, a tropical greenhouse with butterflies as well as an Indigenous garden that displays a selection of plants used by the first nations people of Canada for thousands of years.
The newly added Aga Khan garden is a new addition to the University’s Alberta botanic garden display that’s inspired by Islamic architecture and design which includes a peaceful terrace, ponds and a forest path.
Of special interest to some is the Opera El Fresco which is held here annually as part of the Edmonton Opera company every June.
Visit the largest indoor theme park in North America – West Edmonton mall
Seems like a bit of a trend here in Edmonton but I kid you not, there really is a theme park inside West Edmonton mall. In fact it’s the largest shopping mall in North America and the second most visited shopping mall in all of Canada.
We’re not big shoppers but this is perhaps the most unique place to visit in all of Edmonton because of the real-size theme park, complete with rollercoaster ride, indoor swimming pool and arcade.
Attractions inside West Edmonton mall include World Waterpark, Alien outbreak, iceland, Dragon tale & Galaxyland.
Seriously my first time here I could not believe how massive West Edmonton mall was and just how hard they’ve tried to make this place a theme park.
West Edmonton mall is unique in its own right and is worth the visit if you have the time but don’t break the bank trying to get here if it’s not in the budget.
Address: 8882 170 Street NW
Step back in time in the Ukrainian cultural heritage village
More than 125 years ago Ukrainian immigrants sought a home in central east Edmonton, and the city has done well to represent this culturally significant piece of history with an open air museum.
The Ukrainian cultural heritage village has over 35 restored heritage sites depicting life of a Ukrainian Immigrant in Edmonton between 1892 and 1930.
Few places in Canada go to the lengths that Edmonton has to represent a rich piece of history and turn it into one of the most incredible things to do in Edmonton.
Costumed interpreters portraying the lives of early Ukranians show the immense length that this centre has gone to to portray their rich history and importance of early ukranian settlement.
Depicting tales of survival, solitude and how the Ukrainian immigration period has led to a positive impact on Alberta’s historical identity.
To book your tickets to the Ukrainian cultural heritage village tours, book through their website at ukrainvillagecom
Royal Alberta Museum of Canada
North of the River Valley behind Mckinney park is one of North America’s largest living history museum, the Royal Alberta Museum.
Within the arts district of Edmonton, locals refer to this as the RAM and is western canada’s largest museum.
Having moved to their new location in 2018, the Royal Alberta Museum contains a collection of impressive displays covering topics across permanent cultural displays across the eras of time, wildlife displays and prehistoric fossils from the age of the dinosaurs and the ice-age.
I find the RAM very similar in variety to the natural history museum in NYC just on a smaller scale, offering visitors a natural history section, human history and a bug gallery.
These guys mean business though, when they say the largest living history museum in Canada..they mean it!
The cultural history section of the museum explores Canada’s first nations history exploring aboriginal cultures like the Blackfoot, Cree and the many other first nations tribes.
Visiting the Royal alberta museum can be a super fun thing to do in Edmonton if you ever get a little tired of visiting cafes, music events and want to walk around places in a slower, calmer fashion.
There are currently restrictions in place for the Museum limiting the amount of exhibitions open including their cafe but you can still grab a ticket for the day for $21.00
Art Gallery of Alberta
A collection of the most impressive visual arts predominantly featuring western canada in edmonton’s sir winston churchill square is the art gallery of Alberta- in the city centre.
An impressive twisted metal display leads visitors inside the 6,000 piece facility that has been collecting art since its foundation in 1924 with a heavy emphasis on Canadian abstract painting and sculpture.
The art gallery of Alberta has a cafe and restaurant on site and offers private guided tours year round that can be tailored to suit individual interests.
On the other side of the block on 103 avenue NW is the alberta city hall that showcases a beautiful pool and fountain on either side. Grab a coffee from the Hallway cafe next door and explore the rest of city hall with coffee in tow.
Photograph the wildlife at Elk Island national park
Now for the pointy end of the stick, of course Alberta is known for myriad of native wildlife including Moose, Elk, Deer, Bison and of course Bears and if you’re lucky an Alberta Lynx.
Luckily bears don’t live in Elk island national park and the more fluffy creatures choose to live here, and you can experience them all from the safety of your car.
To get here take the Yellowhead Highway East of Edmonton and take a left onto Range road in Fort Saskatchewan to the entrance of the national park.
We recommend staying inside Elk island national park and the best way to see everything is by staying within the park at highly rated and competitively priced hotels!
There are so many incredible places to see in Edmonton’s Elk island national park like going for hikes, taking photographs of the native wildlife, star gazing at the Beaver Hills dark sky preserve or walking along one of the 10 trail heads within Elk island national park.
Our favourite natural attractions within the park was walking along the floating boardwalk at Lake Astotin waiting for the stars to come out and watching the natural glow of sunset.
If you’d like to stay within Elk Island national park then we highly recommend booking your accommodation through these guys here for the best rates at the most competitive prices.
Watch a football match in downtown
If none of the above tickle your fancy and sports is your thing then watching a game of Canadian Football leagues brightest is one of the best things to do when visiting Edmonton.
Luckily we have insider information as Laura’s brother used to be one of the coaches for the Edmonton Eskimos a few years back during their time as champions of the Grey Cup Premiership season.
Ice hockey is a very typical Canadian sport to play and watch and most times of the year you can go and see a game inside their purpose built ice stadiums; the Edmonton oilers are the local favourite.
Games run through the winter seasons from October through to April held at the Rogers centre in downtown Edmonton.
Party at K-days
The festival of a thousand names, previously known as Capital Ex festival is a 10 day festival known to many Edmontonians today as the Klondike days that celebrates the Gold Rush era of the 1890’s. Street parties, dancing, carnival-esque rides , gold panning and celebration of a bygone era of gold miners is the name of the game come end of July when the entire city lights up.
One of the province’s premier festival events held in and around the Edmonton exhibition centre draws hundreds of thousands each year who come to learn about the role Alberta and Edmonton played in the gold rush era.
Accomodation in the city becomes a bit harder to find if you plan on staying for the entire event so make sure you book well ahead of time.